So far, so good. Here’s where the equipment swaps came in. Rather than siphoning the beer, I poured it. With a 1-gallon batch, it’s easy to do. On brew day, there shouldn’t be an issue, because you’re going to want to oxygenate your beer anyway before you pitch the yeast.
For comparison sake, I divided the beer into both bottles and pint-size mason jars. Now, I have to tell you, everything I have read said that mason jars are not made to hold carbonation, and I spent the entire two weeks worried that the mason jars were going to explode on me. In fact, I stuck them in a cooler and then put a 30-gallon bucket of wheat berries on top of the lid just in case they did explode. I use mason jars all the time for carbonating water kefir or jun, but I always check on those twice a day and release some of the pressure.
All of the beer bottled in bottles tasted fine and delicious, regardless of the type of fermenter (jug or ½ gallon mason jar). In fact, James and I actually preferred the taste of the beer that came from the mason jar: it was a little less hoppy (though that could easily have been due to being taken from the top or bottom of the pot rather than the fermentation vessel). I was worried that the glove might impart a latex-y taste or scent, but there was no discernible glove taste that my senses detected. In this regard, it was a success.
Regarding the beer that was bottled in pint-size mason jars: unfortunately, no carbonation remained. They had no bubbles, though otherwise tasted okay (you know, for flat beer).
I don’t think there’s a good, cheap, beginner alternative to bottling beer. A bottle capper will run you less than $20, with caps about $0.03 each. If you have glass recycling where you live, you can easily dumpster dive for bottles (which is what we did). You’ll be sanitizing the bottles anyway, so they will be plenty clean by the time you put your own beer in them. Just don’t try bottling in mason jars: it was worth a shot, but you probably want some carbonation in your beer.
With regards to fermenter options: using a mason jar and glove that you may have on hand will save you about $8 compared to a gallon jug with an airlock. And pouring your beer instead of racking it will save another $15 or so in equipment. But the real savings is probably from doing a 1-gallon batch instead of a 5-gallon batch. No big kitchen pot to buy, no large fermenter(s) or other gear to purchase. But it’s all up to you. There’s a reason why brewers buy equipment: it makes life easier and makes your product more consistent. So if you’re just starting out, give it a shot with whatever you have on hand. There is never any harm in trying something. And once you’re hooked and have the funds, try a bigger batch with some more legit equipment.
Anyone out there have a MacGyver solution they’ve used when brewing? Always curious to know your brewing experiences! Please share in the comments.